The WILDerness Ride

I feel like this bear looks. I’m coming off of a wild ride.

About a year a half ago, my husband, three kids and I said goodbye to a house we loved. We had rebuilt every inch of that house over the span of four years.

But three years in we felt the Lord leading us to sell it. So we did. We said our sad goodbyes, surrender our will and moved forty minutes away from our life; which may not seem like a big deal–really just inconvenient. But I’d argue that forsaking convenience for Christ, especially for us, as Americans, is the hardest thing. It’s the first step to full surrender, because it’s really what we’re all striving to attain. Plus, being inconvenienced over and over and over again has a way of exposing what’s hiding in our hearts.

See, for me, twenty-five miles was just far enough away from family and friends to be really inopportune, yet not far enough away to commit to forming new friendships or a new life, since it was just one town over. Thus, the selling of our home began an eighteen month journey into what I’ve dubbed, “the wilderness.” Sound dramatic? Let me explain.

The wilderness can be a time where you feel far from God, and/or a time when you are heavily relying on God’s provision for you in one or another. It’s different for everyone. It may happen more than once in your life; and it could be just one area of your life.

The other thing about the wilderness is, you can have dolphins swimming in your backyard and still be in a dry and weary place; either due to the attitude of the heart (this was me), or because the wilderness is an “in-between place”, just a temporary home (also me). It’s not a place you where you’re going to settle in, but you might paint a picture of what you experienced and hang it on your wall, as a beautiful reminder.

Settle in, I’m about to paint that picture.

I’ve been digging into two of the wilderness experiences found in the Bible. I broke them down into four points and have found myself in each of these experiences over the last 18 months.

1. Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit.

I wonder if anybody asked Jesus why he was willfully walking into the desert. He probably had some brilliant answer. We, however, did not. We knew the Lord was calling us away from our old home. The hardest part about this venture into the wilderness was that it didn’t make sense to anyone.

Two months before we moved, my sister and her family moved just ½ mile from us. Half a mile. That was not an easy conversation. She could’ve made it about her. She could’ve taken offense. Because, moving away from the life and commitments we had didn’t make ANY sense. Trying to explain it seemed pointless. We came up with a few standard responses: “We want to see what it’s like to live on the water.”; “We were growing out of that house.”; “It’s a good time to sell.” They were accurate enough, but we knew God was intending to do something in this new place. We just didn’t know what it was and certainly didn’t know how to say, “God has a plan for us, and it took us here, either forever or for a season. We’re just here waiting on Him.”  Sure, it seems easy enough now.

2. The Israelites were in led into the wilderness because of their grumbling and complaining. 

I did not have Jesus kind of faith. Even though we were led by the Holy Spirit, I may have turned a 40 day visit into a 18 month schlepping because of my complaining. I was inconvenienced by this experience and some days I shared my misery. The mosquitos, annoying. The drive with the kids, exhausting. The extra drive time for the husband, frustrating. The lonliness, depressing. But the provision? It was like Manna from heaven, overwhelming.

Nine months after we moved to the wilderness, I was complaining to the Lord about how I felt like I was alone and removed from everyone: my community, friends, and family. I told him how I felt like I was missing out, how I needed a person next door or in my new neighborhood to build relationships with.

He simply said, “I’m your person.”

That’s when the shift occurred. I started realizing in that moment that He had removed me from all of the distractions so I would focus on Him. That’s what I started to do. He really became my person more fully. He’s the one I wake up to greet first, and the one I pursue all day.

3. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. He overcame and was released for ministry after His experience.

Thirteen months later, we were up for renewal on our lease. We were praying to be released from the wilderness and move back, close to family. Pray-ing. Wouldn’t you know it? A home came on the market just around the corner from my mom. You guys, my kids could’ve walked there by themselves. So close.

We put in an offer and it was accepted. We were going through the motions of escrow, but still praying through the process. We were so tempted to be back, but neither Mickey nor I felt peace about the house. We kept praying. One night, I was so desperate for clarity; I went and prayed by myself in a parking lot, pleading with God to let us leave. Just then, I saw the word, “STAY” show up like it was written with a sparkler. Mickey agreed with what I had seen. The next day we cancelled the contract.  It would’ve been so easy to turn that stone to bread, like Jesus was tempted to do. But we relied on the Word of the Lord and overcame the temptation.  The following week I scheduled my first speaking engagement. The Lord was releasing and empowering me for ministry in a new way.

4. Joshua led the Israelites out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land by walking around Jericho.

In the six months since that experience, I have changed. I feel more like Joshua (the second generation) and less like the first generation of Israelites, wandering, wondering and complaining. I see what God was birthing in me. I see what He was doing for our family. I see with more clarity what He is setting me apart to do.

Just asix weeks ago, I happened to see a house come on the market. I was like Joshua seeing Jericho for the first time. I knew it was the place that we were meant to call home. But it didn’t seem possible. How would we get in? We put an offer in (sight unseen, mind you) and beat out two others. Our offer was accepted. We were in escrow again. This time, the craziest clarifications and requirements kept popping up. We see a lot in this business but this was bizarre. This went on for weeks. I began to doubt that this would be the place God had for us. As I prayed, seeking clarity again. It was a week before we were supposed to close. I asked the Lord if this was the house, or if we were to stay in the wilderness a little longer.

He said, “Stay.” And my heart stopped for a second, until he continued, “but not like before. Stay like this with me. Remain in me. Haven’t we had the best time together?” Most assuredly, YES!

Then, the Lord led us to Joshua, Chapter 6.  We realized we weren’t to be discouraged by what we saw. We were meant to walk around the walls of the city, and then watch them fall. Be faithful. Be quiet. Keep walking.

We continued that steady march around Jericho until the walls finally fell, exactly seven days later.

We moved in yesterday. I love this place, this Promised Land, this place where I’m becoming more of who God wants me to be, rejoicing for this place he set aside just for us. Rejoicing that he brought us closer to Him, to each other, to the people we love. Closer, as in, we are just five houses away from my sister.

Only God writes WILD(erness) stories like this.

But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be added. 

Matthew 6:33


FamilyErin Arruda